Since charter schools are high on my agenda today, here’s a relevant article on the general topic from Salon. You’ve heard the summary here before:
Charter schools have been relentlessly marketed to the American populace as a silver bullet for “failed” public schools, especially in poor urban communities of African-American and Latino students.
… Huge nationwide chains – called education management organizations (EMOs) – now run many of these charters. A recent study by the National Education Policy Center found, “Students across 35 states and the District of Columbia now attend schools managed by these non-government entities.” These for-profit and nonprofit EMOs – such as K12 Inc., National Heritage Academies, Charter Schools USA and KIPP – now account for nearly half of the students educated by charter schools.
… Substantial, well-funded nationwide organizations have rapidly developed to lobby for these schools. One such organization, the Alliance for School Choice, recently received a $6 million gift from the Walton Foundation, of Wal-Mart fame.
Slick marketing campaigns have been rolled out in communities across the country to tout the coming of new charters.
… report after report showing that these schools tend to do poorly on state and national tests and fail at providing equitable education to underserved students.
Yet lobbying for more of these schools continues unabated with more money funneled into the campaigns of politicians who support charters and more efforts to press state lawmakers to lift any provisions currently in place to regulate how these schools operate and are held accountable to the public.
As a result, charter schools now serve one in 20 students nationwide, despite “mixed results” at best.
But the article is more shocking for its report on scandals and extraordinary disciplinary practices at some of the schools, including the KIPP organization that has been much-praised for its work in Arkansas. A KIPP school in Chicago reportedly put a small child in a padded cell. Another reportedly disciplined black children by making them sit on a bench with a sign around their necks saying “cretin.”
Klonsky noted the nationwide chain’s practice of using a behavioral technique, called “Slant,” that “instructs students to sit up, listen, ask questions, nod and track the speaker with their eyes.” It’s “military style behavior,” renowned educator Debra Meier remarked on her blog at Education Week.
Meier explained how these schools rely on “public shaming” as a form of behavior control, which often includes “children being ‘exiled’ to a special table at lunch, required to wear their KIPP shirts backwards, and other forms of public embarrassment.”
Lots more where that came from.